1. Snyder: I think contrary to appearances, what John has done is overestimated the West quite considerably. There wasn’t a Western policy towards Ukraine in 2013 which would have brought this about. There wasn’t support in Ukraine itself for NATO Enlargement. All the polls showed that Ukrainians were against it until they were invaded by Russia. The question of NATO Enlargement is only a real one after the Russian Invasion rather than before it. I think the crucial think when Americans discussed this, and we have two Americans here now, is to remember that we actually are not at the center of this story. The People who started this were the Ukrainians who were protesting for domestic reasons. The reason the crisis turned into a change of Government is that the Russian Government tried to pay off the Ukrainian Government to silence the protesters, which led to mass shooting. Then the other thing which we underestimate, and I think we fail to notice at times as Americans, is that NATO is not actually the story here. The US is not the story here. That’s the Russian Propaganda, but the actual Russian policy which has developed since the summer of 2013 is to weaken and disintegrate the European Union. They’ve been quite open about that. For them, the Ukraine is not about United States or NATO. For them, Ukraine is about getting in the European Union and making European Union fall apart. That’s the thing which I think everybody from Washington to Brussels has a hard time getting their head around.
2. Snyder: As far as I know, no one has ever turned up any document in any archive from any Country which has confirmed that there was such an understanding. Mark Kramer, who is one of the historians on this subject, has written a long article which demonstrates, I think, that that didn’t take place. But I think what’s more interesting is that it couldn’t have taken place because in 1990, when the conversations you’re referring to were supposed to have taken place, the Soviet Union had not yet fallen apart. Some of the Countries in Eastern Europe were not yet sovereign Countries. The idea that Washington and Moscow in 1990 could have been making sovereign choices for Countries which were not yet sovereign doesn’t really make sense.
Again, I think we miss the point when we concentrate too much on the History of NATO, because the present Russian offensive is not about NATO. The present Russian offensive is about weakening the European Union.
I think Nationalism
is a problem, but I think we have to be clear about what our terms are when we
talk about Nationalism. The normal desire for you to live in Australia or for me to live in
the United States, I wouldn’t call that Nationalism. The Idea that People are Citizens
and Borders are Borders is pretty standard. John is certainly Right that it matters what your [Region] is in,
but I think we have a real difference here about what kind of system leads to Peace
and Stability. It seems to me that the European system [the Grand Strategy] has
done a pretty good job after the Second World War in precisely preventing War.
It’s the largest Zone of Peace and prosperity in the History of the World. What Russia is doing is not reacting
to some Threat from Europe, what Russia is doing is initiating a Threat to
Europe. In so far as Nationalism is a problem in small Countries, it’s a much,
much bigger problem in big Countries. When Russia says, for example, that it has the Right to protect People
who speak Russian around the World or that it has a Right to expand Russian Civilisation,
it’s breaking precisely the Rules of Sovereignty in a way which History shows
is very dangerous. The turn to the Right
since we’re talking about Nationalism in Russia is far more pronounced. It’s on
the scale of very Bad things in the 1920s and the 1930s. There has been no turn
to the Right in Ukraine. Ukraine is governed by a chocolatier and an accountant.
4. Snyder: I think that’s a brilliant question because what’s changed in the last year has very little to do with Ukraine, and very little to do with the West, and a lot to do with Russia. In the summer of 2013, and this is very important, the chronology is very important. In the summer of 2013, Russian Foreign Policy took a very substantial turn against the European Union. It categorized the European Union for the first time as an adversary. In Russian Propaganda, Europe was defined as decadent, where decadent means something that is falling apart. Europe is supposed to represent a dying part of Civilisation, which Russia is going to preserve. All of this is happening in the summer of 2013. It’s followed in the fall of 2013 by something called the Eurasian Project, which is meant Ideologically, politically and eventually militarily to replace and supplant the European Union as an alternative from Portugal to Vladivostok. What’s changed in 2013, and we can ask why, but what changed in 2013 was Russia’s Foreign Policy orientation. Unfortunately, Ukraine is a side effect of this. There is no way therefore to settle this War inside Ukraine. The only way for this to be settled is some kind of deal with Russia and the European Union.
5. Snyder: In a way, I wish both Washington and Moscow were as rational as John suggests they are. Unfortunately, Putin is not a great strategist. If he had been a great strategist, he would have acted in such a way as to keep the Leaders in Ukraine who were pro-Russian in Power. [That’s quite a statement.] Instead, he made a series of mistakes beginning with opposing the Association Agreement with the European Union and concluding with funding the Ukrainian Government to shoot its own People. What Russia has done the last year has weakened its position catastrophically. Strategically, what Russia had the whole time was a balance between the European Union and China. They’ve tossed that away for Crimea, and now they’re on the way to becoming a junior Satellite of China. We can’t save them from that unfortunately. These are decisions that they’ve made by themselves.
6. Snyder: You don’t get to pick your fights. Your fights very often come to you. [This motherfucker’s crazy.] In this case, the fight is not between Russia, and the United States or even between Russia and Ukraine. The chief fight is between Russia and the European Union. I think that’s the most important thing to understand. Whether [the United States] actually does intervene in Ukraine or whether Russian Propaganda simply insists that it already has done. If you watch Russian Television, you realise that the Russians are being told that we did this. We funded what Professor Mearsheimer calls the Coup d’État, all of these things which simply aren’t the case. There was no Coup d’État. This Government was overturned as a result of massive popular unrest, which resulted from the mass shooting of People who were assembled. They were assembled because the Government of Ukraine, at that time, passed a series of Laws denying them fundamental Freedom including Speech & Assembly, which it did because of poor Russian Foreign Policy. Russian Foreign Policy was to pay Ukraine to suppress its own People. That’s what set off the crisis, that’s what led to Russia invading the Crimea. There was no precipitant event which had to do with NATO or the EU there. The precipitant event unfortunately was Russia’s Bad choices.
7. Snyder: The whole Russian miscalculation is based upon the idea that Ukraine was going to fall apart. The reason this War is going on is that Things are just not that simple. They’re now setting themselves up for a struggle with the European Union, which is going to have the same Consequence. I might perhaps agree with John about something fundamental, however. The Russians have to be given a way out. This is a disastrous War for everyone concerned, perhaps above all, Russia. Regardless of the brave face they put on it, this has been a disaster for them especially after dropping oil prices. They will need a way out.